If you’re tackling a marathon, you will have trained hard for months to get in great shape and ready to line up at the start of those 26.2 miles. One of the critical pieces in the marathon puzzle is your race-day nutrition strategy.

You can download the HIGH5 information leaflet here.

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Coach Brendan O’Shea – a veteran of over 100 marathons – looks at the enduring appeal of the classic distance and maps out the training schedules that will help get you over the finish line in Dublin on the big day. (courtesy of Irish Runner magazine).

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The below is an article From Lisa Morrissey.

Put Enough Fuel In The Tank To Last The Distance

One of the most common problems for athletes of all abilities competing in a marathon is maintaining sufficient energy to complete the course. Weeks and months of successful training can be undone by not taking on enough fuel for the race or by taking on the wrong types of food. The marathon is a popular endurance event and it is necessary to store up enough energy in the body to enable it to cope with a sustained period of energy use. The equations are simple enough, too little energy will result in hitting the dreaded wall, and the wrong type of foods and liquids will lead to a sluggish performance and a below-par race time.

Appropriate Fuelling

Most marathons take place in the morning and this creates more risks for athletes when considering what foods to eat prior to a race. The body has naturally been in a prolonged fasting state during the night and this means the body has a greater demand for energy when competing in a long distance event than if the race was during the evening. Performance fails during a race due to the premature depletion of muscle glycogen stores which leaves an athlete unable to increase the pace despite willing the body to go faster.

Importance Of Glycaemic Index

Consumption of foods or drinks high in sugar content will create an initial burst of energy but this will not sustain an athlete during a long distance event, so effectively monitoring the glycaemic index of foods is crucial. Marathon runners require energy that has low to moderate glycaemic properties as this provides a steady energy release that will sustain an athlete for an endurance event. There are many specialist products available that are designed to meet the needs of athletes. Glyco Energy stated that  their nutritional products are specifically designed to improve energy, endurance and stamina. These are key attributes required to run marathons successfully and to improve not only race times but also the comfort of an athlete during a race. Foods that are naturally low in the glycaemic index tend to be natural products such as fruits, nuts and vegetables although some fruits can contain as much sugar as a manufactured chocolate bar. There remains a place for drinks and snacks high in sugar content as they are ideal as a means of replacing energy quickly so can be consumed after a race or as a means of recovery during a race if there is not too much distance remaining.

Training Is Important

It is not the case that an athlete can simple consume the appropriate fuel prior to a marathon and perform well if they have not trained to compete over a long distance. It is important to prepare for the distance by building a training programme that provides an athlete with a reasonable degree of knowledge about what to expect during a race. Bodies react differently to endurance events but an athlete following a solid training plan will be able to develop a dietary plan that enables them to complete the distance and also recover quickly. It is important that athletes do not over-train and it is not recommended for anyone to complete a marathon distance up to seven days prior to a race. The body uses energy and natural rest periods to recover from an endurance event, and while athletes need to train their bodies to cope with the strain placed on the body by a twenty-six mile run, performance would be seriously depleted if this was done in the immediate period before a race. The body would still be requiring a recovery period while great demands were being placed on it, and this would make it hard for an athlete to raise performance during a race.

Enjoy Race Day

It is important for athletes to enjoy running as this helps boost performance levels. Athletes require a balanced diet and treats are still permitted, so it is just necessary to regulate intake of food and drink that is high on the glycaemic index prior to and during a race. It is often the case that when diet issues are resolved or taken seriously, performance levels naturally improve and this provides an incentive to take performances to a higher level. Once changes are made athletes can see the benefits almost immediately and want to achieve more. Enjoyment is enhanced by the upturn in results and athletes on an upward curve can unearth hidden talents achieving race times they never thought possible.

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